Apple Ranked as World's Top Semiconductor Customer in 2011
Back in June of last year, IHS iSuppli reported that Apple had become the world's largest buyer of semiconductors in 2010, jumping past HP and Samsung to top the list with $17.5 billion in spending. Apple's lead was expected to grow in 2011 on continued strength of the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air, all of which contain substantial NAND flash memory, which has become a primary driver of semiconductor markets due to the booming mobile device landscape.
Research firm Gartner is out today with a new report that appears to utilize a somewhat different methodology in calculating semiconductor expenditures but which now comes to the same conclusion as IHS Suppli's earlier report. According to Gartner, Apple became the world's largest semiconductor customer in 2011 as measured by total silicon content in all products designed by Apple and its competitors, known as Design TAM.
Gartner pegs Apple's year-over-year growth for 2011 at 34.6%, easily topping the growth of other top semiconductor customers and allowing it to leapfrog Samsung and a sliding HP for the top spot in the rankings. According to the report, semiconductor purchases for Apple's products came in at $17.3 billion in 2011, ahead of Samsung's $16.7 billion and HP's $16.6 billion purchases.
iSuppli's report from last year highlighted the vast differences in Apple's and HP's markets, with Apple's semiconductor usage being driven by mobile devices and HP's by traditional computer products. Gartner notes that mobile devices and solid-state drives are indeed now the major drivers of semiconductor usage.
"The major growth drivers in 2011 were smartphones, media tablets and solid-state drives (SSDs)," said Masatsune Yamaji, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Those companies that gained share in the smartphone market, such as Apple, Samsung Electronics and HTC, increased their semiconductor demand, while those who lost market share in this segment, such as Nokia and LG Electronics, decreased their semiconductor demand.
Gartner distinguishes Design TAM from Purchasing TAM, which would attribute to a given company only the amount actually purchased by the company. As an example of the difference between the two metrics, semiconductors purchased by a third-party manufacturing partner would generally count toward the primary company's Design TAM but not its Purchasing TAM.